PepsiCo Slammed for Palm Oil Deforestation Despite Updated Commitment

PepsiCo Slammed for Palm Oil Deforestation Despite Updated Commitment

Earlier this month, PepsiCo revealed a comprehensive commitment intended to reduce palm oil deforestation and its impact on the rainforests of Indonesia—but not to the satisfaction of critics, some of who say the plan has a loophole “big enough to drive a bulldozer through.”

That’s Rainforest Action Network’s take on the plan; Agribusiness Campaign Director Gemma Tillack said in a statement, “PepsiCo has exempted from its policy the maker of all PepsiCo branded products in Indonesia, its joint venture partner Indofood. This means rainforest destruction and human rights abuses can continue unabated for use in PepsiCo branded products.”

PepsiCo’s plan guarantees that the palm oil it purchases comes from RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) certified growers, which should reduce palm oil deforestation, but the plan blatantly excludes Indofood, the third largest private palm oil company in Indonesia, where most of the world’s palm oil is sourced. The widespread practice of burning old-growth rainforest to plant palm plantations is devastating local ecosystems, endangering animals including the forest-dwelling orangutan, and putting stresses on the local economy.

“PepsiCo’s latest commitment is a missed opportunity and a half step when what is urgently needed is bold action. Any serious responsible palm oil commitment must include Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer and the country most greatly impacted by rainforest destruction and human rights abuses caused by palm oil plantation expansion,” said Tillack.

The Rainforest Action Network points to PepsiCo’s track record on palm oil. According to the group, a 2014 amended palm oil commitment “lacked both key safeguards and an ambitious deadline, as well as a time-bound implementation plan to ensure that its suppliers actually halt destructive practices.”

“Our public campaign targeting PepsiCo will continue until PepsiCo puts its words into action on the ground where it counts, in Indonesia,” said Tillack. “PepsiCo must step up to be a leader by requiring Indofood halt its bulldozers and join efforts to break the link between palm oil, deforestation and human rights abuse that are rife in the industry.”

According to RAN, PepsiCo uses a significant amount of palm oil, a quarter million acres of land-worth every year—much of that virgin rainforest. “[It]s annual consumption could fill enough Pepsi soda cans full of palm oil to circle the earth at the equator four times,” the group said.

RAN says PepsiCo is the “largest and most influential” company among its ‘Snack Food 20’ list—a group of food brands the organization rates based on taking steps to eliminate deforestation.

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Palm oil image via Shutterstock

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.